Scientists Went to A Cat Cafe to Find Out
Cats have a bit of a reputation. Unlike the blithe, loveable demeanor that dogs tend to have, cats are typically known to be reserved, and, well, they just do what they want, when they want.
A lot of the time, they completely ignore their owners when they call! So, is it because they’re being impertinent, or do they just not communicate the way we think?
Scientists in Japan performed a study to see if cats actually hear and respond to their names. They observed a total of 78 domesticated cats, some in their households and others in a cat cafe where they lived, in four separate experiments.
The pet owners and researchers took turns calling the cats’ names, nouns with a similar length and rhythm, and the names of other cats.
Just to be sure that the cat wasn’t reacting to just anything, the scientists would repeat words until the cat stopped responding and then say their name. The researchers noted the cat recognizing its name if it meowed or moved its ears or head.
Whose Name is it?
“We conclude that cats can discriminate the content of human utterances based on phonemic differences,” the researchers noted in their study published in the journal Scientific Reports.
However, what they observed in the cat café was that the cats were unable to differentiate between their own names and those of the other cats.
While the scientists posed the thought that the cats most likely pick up on their names to be led to rewards, the cat café cats probably get confused because different humans and different voices keep saying different cat names, and rewards are handed out!
The co-author of the study at the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Human Sciences at Sophia University in Japan, Dr. Atsuko Saito, told Newsweek: “Many cat owners know that cats understand their own names.
However, there is no scientific evidence about that ability. There are so many studies about dog ability to communicate with humans. We think it is important to show the abilities of cats.”
Saito recognized that one flaw in the study was that they could have used more cats outside of the cat café. “Results from the cat cafe may be difficult to generalize to other cats from other cat cafes,” she said.
Interestingly enough, after all this time, scientists have only just begun to research the communication skills of cats. What we can certainly draw from this study is that cats can understand and pick up on cues given by humans.